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A Day with Amtrack – LA to SF Bay Area

Yesterday had another early start. Woke up at 5am, quick shower and all packed and ready to go at 5:45 when Keem’s alarm went off. He walked me down to the nearby Metro station where I took the red line back to Union Station, the Amtrak hub. When I was getting off the plane in LAX I took my free polyester fleecy blanket with me, thinking I would use it on the train or bus or something. But I realised I have more than enough clothes to keep me warm, so I have no need of it. Considering how many homeless people live on Hollywood boulevard I figured someone else could use it more than i could, even if it is Summer. It gets a little chilly at night. So I left that behind. Overall my bag isn’t too heavy, about 13-16kgs, but I still feel like I have a lot of stuff, even if it is all useful.

Got to Union Station easily and now had to find the Amtrak area. Luckily they signpost these things very well. I printed off my tickets and went to check in my bag. Had to do some quick unpacking and repacking when I realised my passport was still at the bottom of my bag, and again when I was told that I had to take my laptop in my carry-on. Still not sure why that is the case, but oh well. I had about half an hour to kill before the first bus to Bakersfield would leave, so went to the little convenience store to find some breakfast foods. I got two bananas for 99c, a pot of blueberry greek yoghurt, a nut bar and an orange and mango juice, all for a little over $6. When I was standing in line, another guy walked up to the counter in front of me, not realising there was actually a queue. He only had a coffee so I didn’t care too much, but another guy just near me (not in line) was like “Hey, are you just going to cut in line like that?”. He didn’t hear, but the cashier girl did and refused to serve him because of it. He was cool about it, it was an honest mistake, but I thought it was interesting how it was such a big deal. He was only getting a coffee and I wasn’t in a rush to be anywhere. I think here there is a very clear set of defined social rules and etiquette that everyone just comes to know, and everyone else is quite willing to correct you if you get it wrong. Or maybe I just don’t care enough to bother saying anything usually.

Got the bus from Union Station to Bakersfield, about two hours ride. the bus was really full so I was waaaaaay up the back right next to the loo. It wasn’t actually that bad, apart from the people coming to use it. It didn’t smell unless the door was open. Watched more Big Bang Theory and looked out the window. It was actually a lot like Australia, dry, though maybe a bit greener here in general. Not shockingly though, like Europe.

Waaaaaay down the back

At Bakersfield I transferred onto a train for four hours, and that was awesome. The train has two levels and typically everyone sits on the top unless they can’t climb the stairs for some reason. The seats are fairly comfy and they have a fold down tray table, like on planes, but bigger. They also have a powerpoint for every seat and free wifi! I typed up my blog, finished off season one of BBT, and started reading Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games. The train also has a Cafe Car where you can buy food, so I got some lunch too. The train was very full so the conductor kept telling us to make sure we had the seats clear as it was make-a-friend Friday, hehe. She also said that “if the seats beside you are not clear of your luggage, we will throw it and you out the window. But please know we will do it in a very friendly manner and I will teach you how to duck and roll beforehand. Thanks and have a nice day”. It looks lame typed up like that, but she said it in her usual friendly conductor tone and it was hilarious, the whole train was giggling. Good work Conductor Lady!

My train!

A photo of me blogging, now on my blog…

In the cafe car. I got a burrito for lunch.

At Stockton I transferred to another bus that took me to San Jose, where Jim would pick me up. That bus ride was awful, the whole bus stunk of sewerage, even after I got up to close the loo door. I was about halfway down the bus so I have no freaking idea why the people near the loo didn’t do it sooner. Anyway, it was disgusting, and I once again considered taking the train to Indianapolis rather than the non-refundable bus.

Out the train window

Also out the train window

Out the bus window. I bet you thought it was the train again.

Jim picked me up from the station in his old style Mercedes convertible. Jim is a photographer that I will work with. I posted on Model Mayhem saying I would be in the area, so if anyone wanted to shoot in exchange for food, accommodation or tour guide roles then to let me know. Jim sent me a message saying that he had a spare bed and I could stay for all six nights I am in the area in exchange for a few photoshoots over the week! Good things come to those who make an effort to try and find it! So he picked me up and we went to his “office house” where I would be staying. He has a “home house” too, but the “office house” is fully functional and has a spare queen size bed in it. He showed me the house and lay down the ground rules (no shoes inside, lock everything when you leave, clean up after yourself and no going in his office), which seemed fair enough. It is a lovely house, circa 1940s he said, though it has beend one up some. The bathroom is marble floors, gas stove and over, dishwasher, fridge and freezer with doors that camoflage them as cupboards… The kitchen is quite stunning.

About six we went and got dinner from a local Mexican place that Jim likes and then we went for a short drive around the area. Stanford University is here, so it is generally a pretty upper middle to upper class area. He showed me University Avenue, another one similar to Rundle St, though much longer. We drove around some parts of the Stanford Campus which was quite lovely and then down to Santa Cruz which is very close and got icecream from Baskin Robbins. Jim told me all about the San Francisco Bay Area and we talked a lot about the industries in the area, the people here and those sorts of things. Different conversations than I had with Keem, but interesting none-the-less. I think he was a little wary of me before, he is pretty straight up and comes off as cynical I thought, but I think he is starting to like me a bit and laughs a little easier. So probably just trying to figure me out and make sure I’m not going smash or steal anything, which isn’t really my style, haha.

That was pretty much the day, it was fairly dull, mainly traveling. I also did end up booking the train to Indianapolis, and decided to lose my bus fare. So now I am taking the California Zephyr to Chicago and then a bus to Indianapolis. The train is 51 hours…good thing they have power and wifi!

Today we are off exploring the area, hopefully see the Golden Gate Bridge (the only thing I really really want to see here in San Francisco, everything else is just an added bonus).

2 comments on “A Day with Amtrack – LA to SF Bay Area

  1. Nicole
    June 26, 2012

    Sounds like you are having a fabulous time!

  2. robsand
    June 24, 2012

    the cable cars dont forget the cable cars

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